“It’s not so bad?”
“It’ll all work out for the best?”
“Things could be worse. I heard of one guy who…”
“Don’t waste time worrying about it.”
If you’re a Christian, maybe you say this:
“God’s in charge so He must have caused/wanted this.”
“God has made it happen for a reason, even if we can’t see it.”
“God doesn’t want you to be sad. Just keep trusting.”
We mean these words kindly. And there’s some truth in them.
Things could be worse. Compared to global poverty or terrorism, your sick child or dodgy knee is “not so bad.” On the other hand, compared to how your legs normally feel or a friend’s bouncing toddler, this stuff HURTS.
When I say to a friend, “things could be worse, ” instead of helping them, I minimise their pain. When I say it to myself, it can be a way of trying to avoid sadness. It’s too painful, so I won’t feel it. But some pain needs to be felt – and only then can we also know hope.
The Psalms of the Bible are full of weeping. This is not a mistake. But sometimes we shortcut that lament process by simply saying “God’s got a plan.” He does, but this doesn’t make bad things good. And it doesn’t remove all those ‘why’ questions that fill the Psalms and our hearts. God tells us to bring our tears to Him. Sometimes however, we gloss over pain and plump for platitudes instead.
“She was too good for this world.”
“God never shuts a door without opening a window.”
We say these things with the best of intentions, but they don’t deal with the reality of evil. God calls them “bad,” and we can too. “He who holds the power of death” is the devil – and he is an enemy (Hebrews 2:14). Death is an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). In contrast, God “longs to be gracious to us.” (Isaiah 30:18). He loves us and wants our good. He takes no pleasure in our pain.
Sometimes He allows it.
He could have stopped the car crash.
He could have prevented the bullying.
He could have put us in a different job or family or setting.
God’s people go through the flames and sometimes He lets it happen. Why? Sometimes we won’t ever know. But He uses what is intended for our harm to bless us. He takes what the enemy means for evil and makes it part of something precious, something we can’t get in any other way. We might not see it in this life, but He is at work. And the enemy is defeated.
In the face of evil we need to say two things and not just one. First, we say that these things are evil and, second, that God turns them to good. But we must affirm both. At Lazarus’s tomb, Jesus did not wink to the dead man’s sisters, knowing that He would soon be raised. Instead, He wept. Jesus did not smile through Good Friday. He cried out “My God, my God!” It is through the cross that the resurrection comes – and there are no short cuts.